Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sunday Express defames Jonathan Ross with two consecutive non-stories

Last week the Sunday Express berated Jonathan Ross for bragging about his 14-year-old son's progress on an 18 rated computer game.

Ross wrote on his Twitter page that his son had almost completed 'Call of Duty - Modern Warfare 2' in one evening.

The Sunday Express blasted Ross for allowing his young son to play the game, claiming that it was rated 18 by the BBFC.

But the newspaper neglected to mention one important detail.

In August 2009 the BBFC revealed that a legal error has rendered the Video Recordings Act null and void. The following statement appears on the BBFC's 'About Us' page:

"The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has notified the BBFC of a serious issue which has come to light in relation to the Video Recordings Act 1984 (VRA). Because the then British Government failed to notify the European Commission under the Technical Standards and Regulations Directive (83/189/EEC) of the Act, the VRA is no longer enforcable against individuals in the United Kingdom."

In a subsequent Times article a spokesperson for the BBFC reinforced this point, telling the newspaper, "Unfortunately, the discovery of this omission means that, a quarter of a century later, the Video Recordings Act is no longer enforcable against individuals in the UK courts."

In other words, there is presently no law in the United Kingdom which prevents any person under the age of 18 from purchasing or using a computer game with an 18 rating plastered on the side of the box.

As such, the Express story is a nonsense. That Ross's 14-year-old son is in possession of an 18 rated game is inconsequential; it is a non-story, another in a long line of right-wing hit pieces designed to topple Ross, a prominent figurehead for the BBC and thus the licence fee, to which the Express is so strongly opposed.

One week previously the Sunday Express ran another hit piece designed to shame Ross and the BBC. The article claimed that Ross was potentially in breach of BBC guidelines because his chat show regularly featured guests represented by his own agent.

The newspaper listed three comedy stars - Dara O'Briain, Jack Dee and Michael Mcintyre - as belonging to the same agent (Addison Cresswell) as Ross, stating that the host had 'helped celebrity chums plug their wares'.

In reality, Addison Cresswell's company 'Off The Kerb Productions' is one of two agencies which monopolise the British comedy scene.

A quick glance at Addison's company website shows that he represents countless big name comedy stars in the UK, boasting a roster that includes Lee Evans, Michael Mcintyre, Adam Hills, Jack Dee, Alan Carr, Jonathan Ross, Phill Jupitus, Rich Hall, Sean Lock, Shappi Khorsandi, Dara O'Briain, Mark Steel, Andy Parsons, Jo Brand, Marcus Brigstocke and more.

The fact is, if the BBC wishes to represent the UK comedy scene in any of its shows - be it Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You, The Graham Norton Show, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross or otherwise - it has little choice but to hire Addison Cresswell's clients.

The second company which dominates the UK comedy scene is PBJ Management. Artists on PBJ's roster include Eddie Izzard, the Mighty Boosh, the League of Gentlement, Lenny Henry, Bill Bailey, Dylan Moran, Harry Enfield, Ross Noble, Tim Minchin and Steve Coogan - all of whom have appeared on Ross's show - most of them on numerous occasions - despite not being on Addison Cresswell's books.

The only truly enormous British comedy stars belonging to neither agency are Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais, both of whom have also appeared on Ross's show on several occasions.

It is another non-story.

Consumers should be wary of all BBC related stories pumped out by newspapers such as the Mail and the Express. These newspapers are aggressively right wing and therefore are in favour of privatisation. Consequently, both have long, documented agendas against the BBC and provable histories of stirring up moral panics and controversies around the company.

The Sunday Express's consecutve non-stories about Jonathan Ross are indicative of this bias.